It's not often that I'm able to type the words "here's a cool indie RTS that you really should take a look at " and yet I'm able to do that here, right now. Here's a cool indie RTS that you really should take a look at right away: Project Aftermath. It's a squad-based sci-fi combat game, with power-wielding heroes and ongoing objectives, large maps, puzzling tactical conundrums, and little squads of brightly coloured laser-wielding dudes following your heroes... It's a little like what Dawn of War II seems to be aiming for, only with bright colours and limited orks. It's got a kind of Freedom Force theme going on too, with comic strip intro panels and some amusing fiction (the enemies have flying saucers?) bookending the action. Better still, there's loads of little UI features and play nuances that make it an interesting game in its own right.
Project Aftermath has been launched on Steam and on the official website, and the demo is available now. Impressions and trailer follows.
Right, so I've downloaded the demo (a mere 197mb) and got to work. The game immediately opens up with something unusual: the squads you're commanding are led by a hero, and he's the main event for interaction in the world. Heroes can be commanded to interact with things in the environment, but are also super tough and do loads of damage. Where the hero goes, so do the peons.
The combat in the demo revolves around a domination mechanic of capturing an area by activating the local obelisk. Once you've done that you can shut off the baddy-spawning buildings and move on to the next objective. It's fairly simplistic, but the management of fire and use of special powers keeps it entertaining. In fact, right now it's feeling like a create big stew made from all kinds of previous strategy games, and I'm liking it a fair bit. It's even relatively pretty for a cheap, indie folk game.
These main characters (of which you can have a whole bunch at any one time) and their squads are also armed with specific batches of equipment - something which factors into another neat feature: damage resistances. These turn up in all kinds of games, but they're explicit here. If you're using the wrong weapons against a particular kind of enemy then you won't get far. The game gives you plenty of scope for getting it right, and you'll need to. The squads can be heavily customised between missions, so you can spend some time spending your points on research and general tinkering. Heroes are also able to use area-of-effect blasts and other effects to take down enemies and protect your tiny soldiers.
What's most interesting about Project Aftermath, to me at least, is that the entire game hangs on a kind of points system. You pick up points for completing objectives and defeating enemies, and you spend them again if you have to rez your heroes or use special powers. I like that idea - it's a kind of honest way of dealing with the resource conundrum, while still making the game about Warcraft-style hero characters fighting a roaming campaign. Further, these are the resources you'll spend later on when sorting out your squads for the ongoing missions. (Can anyone think of a game which has a high-score table that allows you to spend your score to increase your skills in the game? The notion rings a bell, but I can't place where I've seen it before.)
Also: bipedal robots.
Bad stuff? Some of the sound-effects are terrible and there is, tragically, no quicksave. But hey.